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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: orienteering performance

in: Orienteering; Training & Technique

Feb 10, 2021 12:54 PM # 
From Gswede's log:

The thing is though that orienteering can't really exist in a vacuum. For example, I can run a fast 5k and we all know what that time means more or less. But if I have an excellent performance in a middle distance without competitors, does that hold much meaning? You could always say that you'd have to see what others can do.

This makes it difficult for me to set goals to do on my own during this pandemic.

What is an outstanding performance in orienteering without competitors?

On the other side of the coin, in any given competition how do you know how much anyone else was trying? Sure you can say, wow I must have been great because I beat 'x' today, but you were smashing it and they were jogging. I've definitely won races where I didn't think I had a great race, it was just better than anyone else had that day.

I agree this is a tricky one. I stopped setting placing goals because they are too variable on the day and what other people do and have gone with % behind goals more often. In big enough competitions these translate pretty well into position goals. This is maybe more relevant for WOC or O-ringen or the like for someone at my level. When it comes to national champs then yeah we're talking about that 1st place :p

I think the answer is twofold:
1. You know yourself if you're being honest.
2. Compare against yourself. This is tricky in orienteering because round 2 of a course will ~always be better. I think a similar length/climb course in the same area works though. In a sufficiently complicated area you can maybe get away with the same course. TG had his course in Spain and another in France he'd do once a year as a test.

Yes, you probably still don't know how you compare to your competitors but you can certainly track your own improvement and if you're getting better then that's a win in my book.
Feb 10, 2021 1:29 PM # 
Well said roar!

Of course there are also lots of other imperfect metrics you can use if you have a good enough sense if your own orienteering.

Percentage of controls spiked (define how you will).
Total time lost (again up to you to define).
Deviation from red line (only applicable in some scenarios)

Not the same as having a real race goal of course but it is something...
Feb 11, 2021 1:00 AM # 
Good thoughts, guys. I understand what you mean. You never really know if people were giving their all. But that's still a competition, right? It's what everyone gave on that day. Also as roar said, rerunning a course isn't necessarily the best comparison since you'll likely run it better the second time. What about running the second time at night? Or once a year as TG did?

To be optimistic, I think working on solutions to this problem during the pandemic is beneficial overall, particularly for our three countries (perhaps a bit less relevant for Ireland) since we often compete in a vacuum.

Again and again, I'm convinced that one of the main obstacles holding back NorAm orienteers is our lack of competition. It's certainly not the terrain. In most cases I'm more impressed with NorAm terrain than I am with what I've seen in Europe. So how do we make up for a lack of competition?

I know I can often guess what the winning time for a course would be give or take a minute. So is having a fictitious winning time a possibility?

Of course the drawback there is that I need to see the course beforehand.

Lots of questions and no clear answers. Maybe I should just grab a map and go run somewhere.
Feb 11, 2021 7:37 AM # 
You possibly can run faster second time (I usually haven't been able to improve when there was only 5 min rest or so).

Anyway, you can judge your technical performance by measuring how much you could improve second time. Something like 10 sec/ km is fine, more indicates your initial performance was not that great, right?

You also can race against yourself by runnig the course opposite direction. Direction should't matter that much If start and finsih area about at same elevation.

One of my race attempts against myself, a really short course to have fresh enough legs also for second round. I managed to get 15s secs ahead but eventually lost it for take two poor lines. (black dots every 10 secs, larger every minute)
Feb 11, 2021 4:01 PM # 
I really like Jagge's idea. Also means you get double the training out of a single piece of course setting. Obviously the rerun is more physical and less technical, but variety is good.
Feb 11, 2021 4:54 PM # 
Danny Riley:
Maybe I'm not qualified enough to answer this, but as Canadian has already suggested, I think time lost is probably the most useful metric. You might be at the level where you can count the seconds lost on one hand, but for me it's always been relatively easy (and very useful) to identify and quantify time lost to a decent degree of precision. Comparing the time lost relative to total time (e.g. as a percent) on generally similar courses/maps seems like the most informative of the quantifiable metrics as it simultaneously expresses both the magnitude and frequency of mistakes (and thus lets you see if you've made an exceptional mistake-free run), and it's entirely introspective. Of course, this assumes that you're consistently making at least a few mistakes on every run. It also doesn't reflect poor route choices; only the degree to which you were able to execute your route (which is still very important).
Feb 11, 2021 5:52 PM # 
GPS comparisons are interesting when both of tracks are yours and you still well remember what happened out there. I guess you compare gps tracks already, runs made by other athletes and your own against some other runners. Like here 3 min on

It's different when both runs are yours. Seeing where and how the time difference actually accumulates, figuring what you were doing and thinking etc can give some pointers how to become better and faster. When you compare runs made by others you can sometimes just guess what was going on and was is real the reason someone was fast/slow here and there. For example unmapped path or slightly twisting ankle may make a some sections look faster or slower then they are.
Feb 11, 2021 6:50 PM # 
Jagge's idea reminds me of some of the tests described and discussed in The Winning Eye with different ways of measuring and quantifying your MAS (max aerobic speed) to MMRS (max map reading speed). Some of the tests are actual terrain / orienteering tests and others are simulation tests that you can do on a cleared road. Maybe it's worth incorporating some of those?
Feb 11, 2021 11:58 PM # 
My Winning Eye hasn't arrived yet, but you could have your approximate goal race AHR and see how well you orienteer at that pace. Ideally you will have no mistakes, so quantifying mistakes is not too hard. If you're losing too much time to hesitation, that will appear in the HR data. Route choices you can analyse afterwards.
Feb 12, 2021 2:15 AM # 
I also like Jagge's and Neil's ideas.

The Winning Eye tests seemed to be very beneficial, but they didn't seem very fun, which I consider a critical aspect in maintaining motivation.

I'm going to start cooking up ideas for trainings this spring once the snow melts.

And I agree with your percentage approach, Danny. It is a useful metric since mistakes are mostly what make the difference between "winning" and "losing." But something I've experienced quite often in elite competition is having an excellent run for me and then getting destroyed by others. I probably would not have been able to run better on that day, but having someone demonstrate that humans can run that course much faster forces me to reflect on what else is needed to improve in the long term.
Feb 12, 2021 7:23 AM # 
HR is good indicator as ndobbs writes. But at least in scandi terrains high HR, not hesitating and not making mistakes on optimal route choice is not the end of the story really. An elite like you can also see it just as a beginning. See, there is variety of footing, small bushes, mranches small unmapped tracks, soft spots, grass, bare rock ans so on. All of that unmapped. To be fast you need constantly to look ahead and spot the optimal line through all that unmapped stuff. And to be able to pick the perfect line you need to know well where you are going so you can see what is the best line, not on map but on the view you see ahead. You can think it like this: if you use 100% of your CPU time to navigate (reading map, compass and spotting mapped features) you may not have CPU left for picking the best micro line. If you can navigate with 10% CPU you have 90% left for picking the best line. So HR may be high because you fight across every possible obstacle along the way instead of seeing and pinking the line some meter left or right and avoid most of them.

Typically this line picking is integral part of navigation. By map and compass you know where you are going and what you expect to pop up ahead soon, and then you look ahead and wait those to appear. While looking ahead you automatically spot the optimal line from where you are to the spot you are looking ahead. More time you do on this (already knowing where you are going, just looking ahead and "waiting") faster you are. Time used for looking at map while running and looking features left and right makes you not look ahead and than makes you slow. Sure, this all isn't black and white, but I guess you get the point. At your second run you are able to look more ahead becase there is less need for looking elsewhere so you often end up picking better line, and this may show up as fastet time without HR being any higher.
Feb 12, 2021 10:55 AM # 
Agreed Jagge, but...
I don't think you can be high HR and use 100%CPU on navigation and not make mistakes all at the same time. You have to know where you are going (more important than where you are) in order to keep the HR high.

The goal per se isn't high HR, but it's a symptom of good navigation (if no big mistakes and if infrequent encounter with bears).
Feb 12, 2021 11:59 AM # 
having someone demonstrate that humans can run that course much faster forces me to reflect on what else is needed to improve in the long term

My point was when your skill are really good, the navigation is easy, so you can focus more on looking ahead and picking fastest line. I have seen plenty of folks who find controls just just fine and ahr is fine but they micro zigzag too much and fail to look ahead to find the best line. thumb compass and focuing too much on details around typically leads to this. Second run tests should reveal is there room for such improvement.
Feb 15, 2021 1:10 PM # 
Thanks for your comments, everyone. It's good stuff to reflect on for this season.
Feb 15, 2021 3:59 PM # 
This is all fascinating. I have nothing to add, because it's a question I grappled with the entirety of my own career, and never came to a good answer.
Feb 16, 2021 9:21 AM # 
“But if I have an excellent performance in a middle distance without competitors, does that hold much meaning?”

My first coach really pushed the concept that having a perfect race (full speed no mistakes) was >> placing unless it was a head-to-head mass start race where different strategy comes into play. Looking back I think that really helped make training races more meaningful for me and on the flip side poor placing in an otherwise great run less difficult to take. i.e, since you can’t control your competitors’ results aim for that perfect full speed no mistakes race yourself and enjoy that. He was also pretty blunt about that by once asking me how i felt after I won race despite lots of mistakes “what do you think motivates the scandinavian athletes that place 40th- 60th but could easily beat you? It isn’t routinely being on the podium!”

We would break the real races and training races into similar sections and compare min/km to determine my own ‘superman time’ to see how close i was to my perfect race. Then he would have me re-run training races against myself like Jagge suggested and re-run real races to see where gains could be made. The two courses i reran the most were the 1986 Dundas Valley word cup and 1993 WOC Short distance. As I’ve said before i haven’t come close to Michel Wehlin’s time in the DV86 race despite being the mapper, course planner and living within 10km of the map most of my life. But I have had perfect races on that course.

You learn a lot about how micro route choices and push much harder. I recall Thoresen saying he ran full speed and relocated at WOC93 short distance. The stone walls in sections of that WOC short distance race really are good examples of where the navigation is quite straight forward and you can really let loose speed wise. Doing that over and over to see where you can save seconds was useful training for me. While I would have preferred to have raced WOC in 1993 the feeling of racing it hard perfectly in training is pretty darn good too. (ie what most Scandis would have to settle for too given how hard it is to make WOC team).

I agree with Roar that “you know yourself if you are being honest”. 2000 NAOC was best example of that for me. Running in the finish line each day the placing didn’t matter because i had done what my goal was. Perfect races at the race weekend i had chosen as top goal.

Learning to get that feeling in training makes the sport that much more enjoyable because it is such a great feeling to have. ie you don’t need races to enjoy it immensely.

Not sure if that helps but it certainly helped me in era of the sport where there was no GPS, attackpoint, DOMA, etc.
Feb 16, 2021 1:38 PM # 
Absolutely spot on, Hammer.
Feb 17, 2021 1:30 PM # 
@Gswede, can I share this conversation?
Feb 17, 2021 4:38 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
My kingdom for some sort of promote from log -> forum function.
Feb 17, 2021 6:03 PM # 
Good thoughts, Hammer. Definitely stuff we can implement in training in NorAm.

And yeah, Jeff, no problem if you share it.
Feb 17, 2021 6:54 PM # 
Yes, I can move this thread to the main forum if Greg wants/agrees.
Feb 17, 2021 8:34 PM # 
Go for it, Ken!
Feb 18, 2021 12:26 AM # 
Thank you! Fascinating.
Feb 18, 2021 12:54 PM # 
Ah! I was wondering where this comment went. And there was me second guessing if I'd even posted this in the first place...

To jump back to Greg's point about lack of competition, I do largely agree that lack of it holds one back. When you run a race with only 3 direct competitors and you are all separated by 2 mins or something, you aren't encouraged to analyze the micro mistakes. Compared to some distrcit race in Sweden where a minute can mean several places, you can start fussing about taking the long way around the boulder because you didn't read your descriptions. It's also possible to get much more information from a race about what was a good choice and what wasn't if more people have taken more diverse routes on a GPS analysis.

Jagge mentions micro-route choices and I think this is something you only really see the difference when you are in a forest racing someone head to head, be that training of mass-start races as it's hard to remember and talk with someone about exactly how you ran some leg at the end. When I moved to Sweden, for sure one of the things that I noticed was how the top runners would seem to just understand a little better than me when to go over or around a knoll for example. Running intervals in the forest with people at or close to my level regularly really helped me gain some of that knowledge.

This discussion thread is closed.